6 Ways to Live by Your Organization’s Core Values

Culture

March 10, 2021

Margaux Morgante

X min

5 min

Clear values give every member of your organization a sense of direction and a definition of success in every interaction and task.

Professional team brainstorms together on what values matter most to them, before unlocking the full potential of Kudos.
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Table of Contents

This article is part 3 of our 5-part Employee Engagement and Culture Checklist Series:

Since the onset of the pandemic, our resiliency is being tested beyond what we ever could have imagined. Even so, many of us adjusted reasonably well to new safety measures, virtual meetings, and 6ft bubbles. That's not to say we aren't still mourning the loss of camaraderie, connection, and collaboration we had in communal spaces. So now that the dust is settled, how do we reclaim what we lost and forge ahead?

We need to get back to our core – renew focus on our mission, vision, and values.

Organizational Values and the Bottom Line

Clear values give every member of your organization a sense of direction. They outline the definition of success in every task and interaction. The right core values can drive belonging and wellbeing, improved employee engagement, and reduced turnover. But most importantly, tying performance measurement and recognition to those fundamental values enables you to build a resilient workforce with a robust culture – laser-focused on what matters most to your organization. Relating all actions and decisions to your core corporate values does improve your business performance.

According to Gallup, the problem is only 23% of employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization's values to their everyday work.

Does this problem sound all too familiar? These six tips should help you bridge that gap.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Define What Your Values Look Like in Action

Sometimes values seem too aspirational; or worse, like corporate fluff. Nevertheless, substance can be distilled from them.

Identify specific behaviours and tie them to each core value. In doing so, you give your team guidance. Your values become their North Star, directing their day-to-day decisions to best reflect your company. This method can be especially helpful in organizations of remote workers, who have less supervision or guidance readily available.

Let's break down some behaviours that could be tied to particular values, including Integrity – the most popular value in US companies, according to a recent MIT Study.

company core values chart

Remember that your values will also dictate how your employees treat your clients – that should help spell out specific behaviours that matter.

Try this: Take some time at your next management meeting to define critical behaviours for each one of your core values. If you can't, chances are your employees can't either, and it might be time to revisit your values.

2. Communicate Values Consistently and Often

For your values to help drive the culture and performance you’d like to see, your employees need to know them. Organizational values are often buried in employee manuals or deep in the corporate intranet. It’s likely that many of your employees don’t even know your values. No wonder only 27% of employees believe in their core values, according to Gallup.

Many organizations are getting creative about spreading the word. Some incorporate values into their office décor, while others display values in their standard email signatures. The common theme is to give your values a presence and have them center stage. For a remote workforce, customize Zoom backgrounds, desktop background images, or the homepage of your company intranet.

Try this: Why not make your values easier to remember by developing a clever acronym? But remember, this step comes after you’ve identified your core values. Do not determine your values based on an ideal acronym. For example, here at Kudos, our core values are:

 Transparency
 Happiness
 Accountable
 Nnovation
 Kollaboration

We made a simple and relevant acronym that suits our values – not the other way around.

3. Recruit and Hire with Your Values in Mind

After you've identified key behaviours and tied them to your values, start looking for people who display those behaviours during your hiring process. Share your values openly and communicate to your candidates that they should be looking for value-alignment as well. Be open and honest in your interviews. If you know your organization values punctuality, and a job candidate indicates that they don’t see the importance of every meeting starting exactly on time - they might not be the ideal fit.

A great example of a company being open about values in recruitment is the meal-kit company, HelloFresh. Their career page features their values front and center, essentially communicating to candidates, "we aren't interested if this isn't you." Check it out. Another example is popular online shoe and clothing retailer, Zappos. They have a recruitment video that displays their culture in a radical way, with the purpose of attracting people who align with their values and repelling those who don’t.

Try this: Work with your HR team to craft behavioural questions to discover if the candidates fit your core values. Here are some practical behavioural-style interview questions to get you started.

4. Address any divides between what you say, and what you do

Leaders and executive managers are always being watched closely by the rest of the organization. Employees look to management for cues on how to act and react; especially in unusual or challenging situations (like what we experienced over the course of the last year). Leaders need to embody the core values they want their employees to live by. If transparency is a core value, leadership must be open with the entire company about any challenges they are facing. If collaboration is a corporate value, leaders should have representation from all company levels and functions on any special projects or working groups.

A great example of this is how Microsoft handled the onset of the global pandemic in 2020. Microsoft's corporate values are respect, integrity, and accountability. When COVID-19 first hit in March, Microsoft announced they would continue to pay all hourly service providers their regular pay during the period of reduced service needs. They embodied their core values at a time when all employees were watching.

Try this: Next time you're faced with a difficult situation (for example, a core employee resigns, or you lose a big contract), think about whether your reaction embodies your core values and make the necessary adjustments. Remember that your employees will follow your lead.

5. Work and Play by your Values

Consistency is critical when communicating the importance of your values to your team to show your commitment. If one of your core values is health and wellness, but you celebrate your wins with cake and alcohol, that doesn’t really align – does it? For your values to stick, you need to live them in all aspects of your organization.

Here’s a great example: one of Airbnb’s core values is “Be the Host.” Fittingly, during an annual meeting, they encouraged local employees to host their visiting colleagues for dinner at their home or at a local restaurant. This isa perfect example of truly living your values.

Try this: Challenge your social committee to tie any staff events and celebrations back to your corporate values. If something isn’t clicking – change it. Show you are committed to living your values, and others will quickly get on board.

6. Recognize and Reward Value-aligned Behaviours

One of the most straightforward ways to reinforce your values into your corporate culture and day-to-day life is to recognize value-aligned behaviours. That can happen formally as part of performance reviews, but also informally through regular recognition. Informally recognizing value-aligned behaviours and contributions helps keep values top of mind, helping to build the culture you need to succeed as an organization.

Try this: Consider an employee recognition and engagement platform like Kudos® to make daily peer-to-peer recognition easy. With Kudos, specific value-tied behaviours must be associated with each recognition message, essentially hardwiring your values into your culture.

Corporate values are a powerful tool that should not be ignored or brushed over. The right values have the power to connect your workforce and drive everyone toward a shared goal. To get there, you must incorporate your values into daily life, and truly live by them. When values are distilled down from broad and aspirational statements to clear behaviours, employees are equipped to do their job in a meaningful and valuable way. Overall, you will experience improved organizational performance.

About Kudos

Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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